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Mountaineer0313

Casco Bay mail run in Portland

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Really interested in doing this, as it sounds like everyone who has done it has a very enjoyable ride. After reading the website and Trip Adviser reviews, it seems like everyone brings a packed lunch with them, and you can also bring alcohol. For those who have done this tour, or live in Portland, is there somewhere close by the port or where you get on the boats to buy something good for lunch and a bottle of wine and some cups to drink it out of? The website also says that you can get off the boat when they are unloading the mail at the various islands. Are there good places for snacks/coffee/ice cream, etc. right there where you get off?

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Following along, we hope to do this in October ourselves (brrr)

 

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Posted (edited)

Population on the islands run from Cliff at (79 year round) to Peaks (864 year round), so the smaller islands won't have anything to buy, they are just "bedroom communities" that do their shopping and eating "on the mainland".  Peaks has some stores and restaurants, Long and Chebeague have mom & pop stores, so there may be italian sandwiches, snacks, and ice cream sandwiches, etc on those islands.

 

There is Flatbread Company (.2 mile)  and Otto's (0.5 mile) for pizza, Duckfat (.3 mile) for everything outrageous (gelato shakes, fries cooked in duckfat, duck confit sandwiches, and of course poutine).  Blue Rooster (.4 mile) for his take on poutine (uses tater tots instead) like "The 3 little pigs" (poutine with pork belly, bacon, and sausage), and hot dogs like "das boot" (bacon wrapped dog with kraut.  Lobster rolls would be Portland Lobster on the waterfront.

 

There are a couple of wine stores on Commercial street near the pier.

Edited by chengkp75

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Posted (edited)

We plan to do this in mid- October, too.  I know it is not possible to know what weather will be like.  However, Chengkp, do you feel it will be too cold to be on the water at that time of year?  [I see the historic high average is 59 degrees. Not bad] Is there somewhere to go inside if it is freezing?  

 

PS--yes, I see the irony of that question since I will arrive in a cruise ship. :classic_cool:

Edited by DragonOfTheSeas

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1 hour ago, DragonOfTheSeas said:

We plan to do this in mid- October, too.  I know it is not possible to know what weather will be like.  However, Chengkp, do you feel it will be too cold to be on the water at that time of year?  [I see the historic high average is 59 degrees. Not bad] Is there somewhere to go inside if it is freezing?  

 

PS--yes, I see the irony of that question since I will arrive in a cruise ship. :classic_cool:

Yes, the ferry has indoor seating as well as the open top deck.  Cargo is all on the aft deck.  It'll likely be "wicked cold" for a Virginny soul, and if the wind is up, it'll be pretty cutting, but the colors will be out at that time, the deer will be on the prowl, and it should be a nice sail around the Bay.  Dress in layers.

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37 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

Yes, the ferry has indoor seating as well as the open top deck.  Cargo is all on the aft deck.  It'll likely be "wicked cold" for a Virginny soul, and if the wind is up, it'll be pretty cutting, but the colors will be out at that time, the deer will be on the prowl, and it should be a nice sail around the Bay.  Dress in layers.

Ha Ha!  As long as there is a place to go to get out of the wind on a really cold day we will be ok.  Thanks 😀

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We have done the mail run twice, and most of the stops are very quick -- the ferry just touches the dock, cargo or mail bags are unloaded, and the ferry is off again.  While there is a vending machine on the ferry, we have never felt the need to bring a picnic lunch nor alcohol beverages on board.  The mail run isn't really that long -- you aren't on all day.

 

The two times we did it were in late September and early October.  Both times were the weather was excellent, and a number of folks had no issues sitting on the outdoors seating in the bow area.

 

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Do you buy tickets on the dock or ahead?

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1 hour ago, ceetee said:

Do you buy tickets on the dock or ahead?

Buy them at Casco Bay Ferry terminal, on the Maine State Pier, next to the Ocean Gateway cruise terminal.

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1 hour ago, ceetee said:

Do you buy tickets on the dock or ahead?

 

I contacted them to see if I could buy tickets in advance or make a reservation.  Here was the reply:

 

Hello-

All our ticket sales are on a first come first serve basis, so it is not possible to make a reservation. That being said, our boats hold upwards of 300 people, so they very rarely fill up all the way. If you arrive at our ticket office (56 commercial street) about 20 minutes before the Mailboat, you will have plenty of time to buy tickets and get in line and you shouldn’t have a problem getting on the boat.

Best, CBL

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These boards are the best. Thanks. Just what I needed to know for the Casco mail run ferry.

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On 6/26/2019 at 7:04 PM, DragonOfTheSeas said:

 

I contacted them to see if I could buy tickets in advance or make a reservation.  Here was the reply:

 

Hello-

All our ticket sales are on a first come first serve basis, so it is not possible to make a reservation. That being said, our boats hold upwards of 300 people, so they very rarely fill up all the way. If you arrive at our ticket office (56 commercial street) about 20 minutes before the Mailboat, you will have plenty of time to buy tickets and get in line and you shouldn’t have a problem getting on the boat.

Best, CBL

We bought our tickets for this at https://www.shoreexcursionsgroup.com/tour/mainboat-run-cruise-portland/CNPTCBLMALBOT

 

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2 hours ago, chengkp75 said:

Which is $4 (25%) more than the price at the pier.

We get senior rate. . . so $14.50 vs $20 pp.  The real difference for us it that if the weather is terrible and the seas are very choppy we can go to plan B without having $40 invested in it. 

 

I take the email at face value that they rarely sell out. 

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I have checked the website and it says the mailboat run is daily.  But just wan to double check...we will be there on September 1st which is the Sunday before Labor Day.  Would it be affected by the holiday?  Thanks.

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1 hour ago, mizcruz said:

I have checked the website and it says the mailboat run is daily.  But just wan to double check...we will be there on September 1st which is the Sunday before Labor Day.  Would it be affected by the holiday?  Thanks.

The mailboat run is actually twice daily, it's just that the afternoon run is typically returning too late for a cruise ship departure.  It runs daily, regardless of holidays, because its main purpose is mail and cargo deliveries to the islands, the only way these things get out there.  When islanders come to the mainland for groceries, it gets packed up at the store, and delivered to the ferry dock, and delivered on a pallet to each island.  The sightseeing aspect is just a sideline to the mail run's real purpose.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, chengkp75 said:

The mailboat run is actually twice daily, it's just that the afternoon run is typically returning too late for a cruise ship departure.  It runs daily, regardless of holidays, because its main purpose is mail and cargo deliveries to the islands, the only way these things get out there.  When islanders come to the mainland for groceries, it gets packed up at the store, and delivered to the ferry dock, and delivered on a pallet to each island.  The sightseeing aspect is just a sideline to the mail run's real purpose.

i watched the YouTube and saw people with bikes.  If we want to rent bikes and bring them on the ferry and ride them on the islands would that be a feasible idea?  

 

Also, would you say the shorter Diamond island run is a decent compromise compared to the main run?  

Edited by Sailor Taylor

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1 hour ago, Sailor Taylor said:

i watched the YouTube and saw people with bikes.  If we want to rent bikes and bring them on the ferry and ride them on the islands would that be a feasible idea?  

 

Also, would you say the shorter Diamond island run is a decent compromise compared to the main run?  

The stops at the islands are very short, about 5-10 minutes, depending on how much cargo needs to be unloaded.  Propane delivery day can get you an extra 5 minutes on each island, but that's about it.  The folks with bikes are probably islanders, as there are limited cars on the islands (limited ability to transport them on and off), and you have to hump in your own gas.  Bikes and golf carts are the primary means of transport.  It may be that they are getting off at Peaks Island, which has more frequent ferry stops, so you could catch a later ferry, but it wouldn't go to all the islands.

 

The Diamond Pass run would get you to 4 islands, and likely have as good a narrative as the full mailboat run.

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55 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

The stops at the islands are very short, about 5-10 minutes, depending on how much cargo needs to be unloaded.  Propane delivery day can get you an extra 5 minutes on each island, but that's about it.  The folks with bikes are probably islanders, as there are limited cars on the islands (limited ability to transport them on and off), and you have to hump in your own gas.  Bikes and golf carts are the primary means of transport.  It may be that they are getting off at Peaks Island, which has more frequent ferry stops, so you could catch a later ferry, but it wouldn't go to all the islands.

 

The Diamond Pass run would get you to 4 islands, and likely have as good a narrative as the full mailboat run.

Thanks a bunch, Cheng!  

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On 6/30/2019 at 7:07 PM, DragonOfTheSeas said:

We get senior rate. . . so $14.50 vs $20 pp.  The real difference for us it that if the weather is terrible and the seas are very choppy we can go to plan B without having $40 invested in it. 

 

I take the email at face value that they rarely sell out. 

 

The senior rate (65 and over) is only $5.75 if you just buy a ticket to Cliff Island. Adult tickets are $11.75, with kids under 5 free. It's the same exact trip. The only thing you get extra for buying the "Mailboat Cruise" ticket is a paper placemat map of Casco Bay. Tickets TO the islands include your return trip to Portland... most people don't stay on the boat to return on the same run, but you can. There will not be time to get off the boat to buy anything... once passengers are off, those waiting on the pier will get on and the gangway is pulled. 

 

Since the ferry leaves at 10AM I would suggest you consider bringing coffee/pastry and plan on having lunch when you get back to Portland. Standard Bakery is excellent and they are across Commercial Street from the Maine State Pier, next to a hotel. You could also bring wine/cheese for the return trip! For that I'd suggest Casco Variety (94 Commercial St... just two piers past the Maine State Pier where the ferry terminal is located). They have beer/wine, sandwiches, etc and open at 6AM. It's a popular place for islanders to grab a cup of coffee and muffin for the boat ride. 

 

And you're correct, they don't usually sell out. I'm from Long Island... so I ride this boat a LOT. 

 

This is similar to the map they give you... print it and bring it with you. LOL

 

Hope you enjoy your cruise and especially your visit to Portland!

cascobaymaps.jpg

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14 hours ago, MEcruzr said:

 

The senior rate (65 and over) is only $5.75 if you just buy a ticket to Cliff Island. Adult tickets are $11.75, with kids under 5 free. It's the same exact trip. The only thing you get extra for buying the "Mailboat Cruise" ticket is a paper placemat map of Casco Bay. Tickets TO the islands include your return trip to Portland... most people don't stay on the boat to return on the same run, but you can. There will not be time to get off the boat to buy anything... once passengers are off, those waiting on the pier will get on and the gangway is pulled. 

 

Does the trip to Cliff Island have any narration? That was something we found very desirable in the description of the Mailboat. I am not sure we would always catch views as we pass without someone pointing them out.  

 

Thank you for the information.  It gives us a couple of options for a ferry trip.  I expect there to be a fair number of passengers interested in this trip.  Many of the cruisers on this particular itinerary are veteran cruisers and select independent excursions.  

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That's the thing... it's the SAME boat. It's called the Mailboat Run because that's the time they send the mail down bay. It's a regularly scheduled ferry to all of the islands, from Portland to Cliff Island. It doesn't go to Peaks Island as they have a dedicated ferry. But the 10:00 boat to Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Chebeague and Cliff Islands IS the Mailboat Run! For locals, it's the 10 o'clock down bay. For tourists, it's the Mailboat Run. So if you're on that boat you'll hear the narration they do for the tourists regardless of what you paid for your ticket. As far as I can tell the only thing you get for the extra cost is the map. I will often sit and talk to tourists... answering questions and pointing things out. They narrate some of the time but you have to remember that this is a passenger/freight ferry and not a "tour boat". 

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Posted (edited)

Another option, if you're in Portland before September 2nd, is to take the 11 o'clock ferry. It just goes to Long Island and back to Portland. You'd get to see 3 islands (Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long Island) plus the bay around those islands. This ferry returns to Portland around 1PM. That would give you a shorter boat ride but more time for lunch on your return. A senior roundtrip fare to Long Island (if you took the 11am ferry there and back) is $5.35. You won't get narration on that trip, though. Unless you bump into me! LOL

 

After 9/2 the 11:00 ferry is dropped and your only option is the 10:00 or you won't get back in time. 

Edited by MEcruzr

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On 8/19/2019 at 5:48 PM, MEcruzr said:

 

The senior rate (65 and over) is only $5.75 if you just buy a ticket to Cliff Island. Adult tickets are $11.75, with kids under 5 free. It's the same exact trip. The only thing you get extra for buying the "Mailboat Cruise" ticket is a paper placemat map of Casco Bay. Tickets TO the islands include your return trip to Portland... most people don't stay on the boat to return on the same run, but you can. There will not be time to get off the boat to buy anything... once passengers are off, those waiting on the pier will get on and the gangway is pulled. 

 

Since the ferry leaves at 10AM I would suggest you consider bringing coffee/pastry and plan on having lunch when you get back to Portland. Standard Bakery is excellent and they are across Commercial Street from the Maine State Pier, next to a hotel. You could also bring wine/cheese for the return trip! For that I'd suggest Casco Variety (94 Commercial St... just two piers past the Maine State Pier where the ferry terminal is located). They have beer/wine, sandwiches, etc and open at 6AM. It's a popular place for islanders to grab a cup of coffee and muffin for the boat ride. 

 

And you're correct, they don't usually sell out. I'm from Long Island... so I ride this boat a LOT. 

 

This is similar to the map they give you... print it and bring it with you. LOL

 

Hope you enjoy your cruise and especially your visit to Portland!

cascobaymaps.jpg

That's very useful info. Are the rates $5.75 and $11.75 for one way or return? Do we stay on the ship in Cliff Island and come back to Portland?Thanks.

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8 hours ago, ace123 said:

That's very useful info. Are the rates $5.75 and $11.75 for one way or return? Do we stay on the ship in Cliff Island and come back to Portland?Thanks.

Oops, I found the answer in your post. 

 

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